Opinion

Washington Tribes: Confirm Keith Harper to ambassador post






Keith Harper, Cherokee Nation citizen and nominee for U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The following is the opinion of Carolyn Lubenau and Shawn Yanity.

This week the nomination of Keith Harper as Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council will be considered in the United States Senate. Tribes and Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and from across the country will be watching this vote closely. Mr. Harper is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and if confirmed, will be the first tribal member to serve as a United States Ambassador. We urge the Senate to support and confirm this important nomination.

Over the last decades, Indian Country has seen unprecedented positive developments from greater self-determination, enhanced economic success and more opportunities for tribal members to participate politically, economically and in leadership roles. This includes the historic confirmation by the Senate of the first Native woman to become a federal judge, Diane Humetewa. With the confirmation on Mr. Harper, we will have our first Ambassador.

Mr. Harper is the right person for this critical job at the United Nations. We know this because we have worked with Mr. Harper and have seen him at the forefront of securing rights for Indian Tribes in Washington State and all over the country. For decades he has been one of our strongest advocates for securing tribal sovereignty, advancing economic empowerment and securing basic human rights for Native people. He has demonstrated a deep passion for the protection of the human rights of all people and it is one reason why so many have supported his nomination.

Among other matters, when legendary tribal activist and environmentalist Billy Frank Jr., needed aid to secure rights for the Frank’s Landing Indian Community, he called upon Keith Harper. Mr. Harper defended the Landing in court and secured an economic deal for the Landing ensuring its future and that of the Wah-He-Lut Indian School.

A few months before Billy’s passing when he heard of Mr. Harper’s nomination, he wrote a letter “with great pride” in support of the nomination, stating: “I am 82 years old and I have worked and collaborated with a wide variety of people in my life. I cannot think of a better representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council than Keith!”

More than thirty organizations support this nomination, from the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the National Congress of American Indians. He has received unprecedented support from Indian tribes around the United States – more than 120 tribes have urged the Senate to confirm him.

Here, in Washington State, we are grateful to Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell for their support of Mr. Harper’s historic nomination. We ask them to work with their Senate colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to make history and vote to confirm Mr. Harper in this post.

We strongly support Keith Harper’s confirmation and know he will serve as an excellent Ambassador representing our Nation as effectively and as passionately as he has represented tribal communities all these years.

Carolyn Lubenau is the Chairwoman of the Snoqualmie Tribe. Shawn Yanity is the Chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe.

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